Australia has some spectacularly coloured Cockatoos and Parrots.
But this post is not about them.
It’s about a dark Cockatoo of a rather dull colour, but none the less interesting. The speckled yellow dots are of the female by the way. The male is sooty black but with red panels at the base of its tail. The females also have a strikingly white beak. It looks a bit of a dirty dull colour in the above image, but that might be the light on the day of shooting.
The Red-tailed Black Cockatoo(Calyptorhynchus banksii) is large and very common inland and to the north of the country. I’ve only seen it in The Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo, but it still fascinates me when you view it front-on as, to put it impolitely, it looks like a hagged old crone with no teeth from fairy stories. (Did I mention I have vivid imagination?).
Very territorial and often gregarious, it issues a metallic trumpeting ‘kreee’ sound.
Here’s a few more images I’ve made over several zoo visits…..made with different cameras and lenses.
The Pied Imperial Pigeon,(Ducula bicolour), is not an Australian bird species but I’ve got so many images from the Zoo’s Great Aviary, that I figure it deserves a mention on my Nature Blog.
It’s a relatively large, plump, (as you’ll see in the second photo above), pied species of pigeon and normally found in forest, woodland, scrub and now – some of the mangroves in the far north of Australia, especially the Gulf of Carpentaria.
In the dry season these pigeons fly back to South East Asia – Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea.
One of my images shows one of the pigeons tipped over a tree branch and you can see the black bars under the tail, so I’ve included that shot in this post (below lower left).
They are migratory coastal birds and that’s one of the reasons why they’re now found in northern Australia in the wet season, when the monsoon rains result in an abundance of forest fruits like the bright orange fruit of the Carpentaria Palm.
Feel free to do a Google search if you want to know more about them. Mr Google told me the above as I didn’t know much about them, except that I had some good close-ups.
I love this bird, but then, I love any bird that stands still (for me to photograph) 😀
As is often the case, there seems to be different names for this bird, including different scientific names.
The other Australian shelduck is called the Radjah Shelduck (Tadorna rajah) and personally, I like it’s feather pattern/colour more than the Australian Shelduck in the previous post. I notice the name on the image below is slightly different to the other images in my archives, but no matter.
It has beautiful rich dark brown back feathers whose colour intensity changes with the sunlight (or shade). It has a comparatively long neck and smaller head (than the AustralianShelduck). Very pale pink legs and feet carry its, mostly, white body, although its white underwing does have a broad green speculum on the inner half.
While my earlier images of this bird weren’t that good, one of my last photography outings to Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary in 2015 scored some better shots. The Shelduck was standing on the boardwalk fence about 5 feet away from where I was standing on the swaying section of the boardwalk bridge.
I do remember having trouble taking advantage of the close proximity of the bird, as young children kept screaming and running over the moveable section next to me (despite the signs at the entrance asking children not to run or shout), sending me swaying with the heavy DSLR.
Then the bird flew over my head and stood on the other side of me (but still close). It turned a bit away from me though. Not so much of a side view.
By the way, don’t dismiss Zoo photography if you’re new to Photography. If you’re like me, don’t have a car, or the health, to get outdoors to the country or mountains, a Zoo is a great place to practice holding your camera still (for hand-held shots), and in the case of Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary, a very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon – I used to love it.
Note: we have 3 zoos in Melbourne – the others being Healesville Sanctuary in the country (where my youngest niece is a volunteer), and Werribee Park’s Open Range Zoo to the south of my suburb. I can get a train to Werribee easily enough, but not sure about the Open Range Zoo area – maybe there are some shuttle buses from the train station? I believe there is a shuttle bus that leaves from the National Gallery of Victoria at around 9.30am for a full day trip. I think the bus costs Aus$35 for a full day trip (which might also include the historic Werribee Park Mansion next door). The Rose Gardens are extensive, but I’ve only see them after a storm ……..once…….and the roses were slightly deficient in petals and colour 😦
By the way, I did get caught out once when I went to the Zoo specifically to spend the whole afternoon in the Aviary on a hot summer’s day and it was closed for maintenance.
For those who have just started following my nature blog, here’s a series of images of the Aviary interior so you can see how large it is. It has 3 zones – one end being rainforest (where the swaying high-up bridge is and the stream starts from a tiny pool and waterfall), and the other end temperate rainforest around a large pond. There’s several feeding stations close to the raised boardwalk along your pathway and around 4.00pm (?) you can get some great close-ups of the avian inhabitants at those seed bowls.
If you’re visiting Melbourne with your family and would like to see all 3 Zoos, paying for a full membership would probably be cheaper than a family ‘day pass’ to each zoo. Do check out their website (and if the Great Aviary on is your ‘must see’ list, phone ahead to ensure it is not closed on the day).
The Zoo is open 365 days per year.
While much of the zoo has been re-landscaped and new enclosures built, I’m pretty sure that they won’t have changed the Aviary since I visited 3 years ago. They have excellent breeding programs and exchange animals with other zoos around the world to ensure rare breeds do not die out to extinction.
(and the baby lemurs and monkeys are sooooo cute).
The 2 people at the top of this image are standing on the swaying wooden bridge over the stream. I am standing at the far end of the rainforest section for this photo.
Looking down the whole aviary – summer.
At the temperate rainforest end there is a large dome high above you.
The dome from the outside.
Looking down the aviary towards the central viewing deck.
I am standing at the temperate end where the boardwalk crosses over the pond.
Many tall trees in the centre of the Aviary.
The aviary in winter. Most of the birds are in their houses or high up on the roof trying to catch a bit of sun.
I’m guessing but I think this image was made with my 18-200mm lens at 90mm, so you can see how close you can get (on a good ‘bird’ day). The white bird is a Pied Imperial Pigeon, 2 Little Pied Cormorants above and the blue background birds are Pied Herons.
In winter, if it’s cold, many of the birds are high up near the roof trying to get some sun and it can be hard to see them, although sometimes you get lucky if you have a long lens and a sunny winter day – examples of a White-faced Heron below.
If you’d like some more images from the Zoo, let me know in the comments section. It might be timely to delve more into the flower section of my archives.
Today, Wednesday and Thursday look promising for outdoor photography excursions, but my pain levels don’t allow me much walking these days.
Otherwise, ‘From the archives’ will continue on this blog for the time being. I hope long-time followers are enjoying the ‘repeats’ or ‘re-views’.
We have 2 Shelducks, (that I know of), in Australia and both are easy to identify being large, almost goose-like, in size. The Australian Shelduck(Tadorna tadornoides) has distinctive chestnut and blackish plumage with the head and neck dark green – in fact, the head looks black to me. The female has white patches around the eye, with the male’s head being all black and I’ve always found it hard to photograph the male with the eye showing.
The images in this post were made in the Japanese Garden at Melbourne Zoo and I’ve usually been lucky enough to see these Shelducks in the shade of a weeping cherry (?) and quite close to the walking path for photography purposes. The path winds through the beautifully landscaped garden with square tile ‘stepping stones’ over a stream. There’s a bamboo cane low fence along the path to keep visitors off the grass, but you can still see several bird species up close, especially the shelducks, who like the shady tree in summer.
Note: this area is not enclosed, or the birds in cages, but I notice they’ve all got leg tags. There are various bird species that wander around the zoo and I presume they love the free food on offer. The finches are in cages or enclosures quite apart from the many other open areas (beside The Great Aviary).
This stork is enormous at 130cm (just over 4 feet) and you can never mistake the identification. Its wings, neck and head seem to change colour depending on the sunlight. It has very long legs and it wasn’t until I saw this stork on the land that I had any sense of just how long those reddish coloured feet were.
The neck is a gorgeous iridescent purple and I would love to see it in the wild, but have to be content with my view of these birds in The Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo. Twice I’ve seen a pair in an amazing dance/mating/fight, (or whatever it was), at the Zoo.
Now that……………………..is truly a magnificent sight.
How DOES one scratch an itchy neck?
I’ve got dozens of photos of this Stork, although many are not very sharp in focus. I made them mostly in the first year or two of owning a DSLR and didn’t know much about Shutter speed and Aperture at that stage. I should have had both settings much higher, although bright sunlight tends to make the white feathers over-exposed anyway. I should have adjusted the white balance also. Of course I could also have shot all those early images on full AUTO 😀
2011, 12, 13 & for a short time, 2014, Melbourne Zoo was one of my favourite Photography destinations. Trying to get a single focal point through tiny 3/8″ (yes, 3/8″) wire in some of the cages proved to be the best way to practice holding my (then) new Canon DLSR & heavy lenses perfectly still in the early years of my Photography hobby.
Primates and Meerkats were my favoured subjects (until I moved on to bird photography) and I went to Melbourne’s main zoo in North Melbourne over 100 times. The (mainly) temperate rainforest landscaping at that time, proved to be heavenly on a hot summer’s day and sometimes I could go as often as 3 times a week to escape the blisteringly hot sun and humidity in Melbourne mid-summer. The single entrance fees were not cheap, but you only have to visit 3 times in any one year to make an annual membership worthwhile, so I certainly got my money’s worth going something like 40+ times in the first year alone.
In fact, (and this is no exaggeration), there was one Spider monkey who I visited so often, who eventually came to recognise me and would come bounding up to the glass near the top of the large enclosure and put his hand out to ‘touch’ mine through the glass. I spent ages photographing and cultivating a unique relationship with it (and the Black-capped Capuchins).
But I also had some great opportunities for close-up shots in late November 2011 and January 2012 of the Mandrills.
I never seemed to see them up close in the following years.
Outside School Holidays was the best for photography, but I’m a pretty patient person and also enjoyed watching the delight on the faces of small children, noses pressed up to the glass, squealing with excitement. There can be no better place to take children to create an understanding of animal behaviour and appreciating the great job zoos do in breeding and increasing nearly extinct or endangered species (as well as gaining a close-up view of Australia’s indigenous birds, reptiles, animals and insects).
Melbourne Zoo is so much fun, is not too large and has great interactive and walk-through enclosures to get up close to birds, insects and animals. There are also private sessions to ‘Meet and Greet’ some of the animals with their Keepers.
I mentioned in a reply to a commenter in the last post that Koalas are not actually bears.
The koala is an arboreal herbivorous marsupial native to Australia. It is the only extant representative of the family Phascolarctidae and its closest living relatives are the wombats.
So a few images of Wombats from Melbourne Zoo seems to be worth posting. I’ve seen many Wombat holes/homes in the wild or Australian bush, but never an animal (that I remember) but then I don’t go out much at night 🙂
From the Archives – 2011 and 2012
In a wombat burrow at Melbourne Zoo (lit by special lighting). I was standing in pitch black in an underground tunnel when I took these shots, so its pretty hard not to bump into other zoo visitors when you walk though this area.
The Freckled Duck has to be one of the most drab and ordinary waterfowl around and to be honest, one that I’ve photographed a few times but hesitant to share online.
But I guess birds can’t all have dazzling plumage merely to make them interesting or Photogenic.
I did read somewhere or other that it is rarely seen in the wild, but I suspect that’s more to do with their ability to blend into their surroundings as much as reduced numbers. Apparently, it is often mistaken for other breeds and shot by hunters during the duck-shooting season here in Australia.
It’s beak is characteristically wedge-shaped, slightly upturned at the tip and the male becomes bright red over the base when breeding.
But I was glad I’d photographed it in the end as its fanned tail helped me identify a Musk Duck down at St Kilda beach one day (which looks very nondescript and similar).
Having recently retrieved an old back-up file, I have loads more bird images in my archives and I was thinking last night that maybe I should share some more of them.
I’ve always re-shared my favourite images – usually herons – but perhaps you might enjoy some of the ‘not shared before‘ bird species.
The shots I consider pretty ordinary.
Not close enough to the bird, or the light was poor, or I could only get a shot of their rear end as they were in a tree over my head and ‘bottoms’ were all I could see.
The images I made some years ago of the Buff-banded Rail fall into this category. I lightened the exposure of a few shots last night in pp and its a bit easier to see this bird within the frame. I always thought I’d go back and re-shoot this species, but of course after 3 years zoo membership and about 100+ visits, I let my Zoo membership lapse, thinking to go on to photographing landscapes, or more street photography, (which hasn’t happened I might add, well not much anyway).
During many hot summer days I’d go to the zoo 3 times a week as the temperate rainforest landscaping of Melbourne’s main zoo, (we have 3 zoos), offered me much relief from the heat. Sometimes I’d go and spent the whole afternoon in the Great Aviary until the loud speaker system indicated it was 15 minutes to closing time, then there was always a mad scramble to get to the back entrance/exit which linked with the city-bound tram line.
I rarely used the front entrance of the zoo.
So here’s some photos (as well as some of the Great Aviary so you know the area I’m talking about and can gain an appreciation of the massive size of this structure). There’s a water course running through which ends up in a pond when many of the storks or other large birds do their mating dance. I’ve been lucky enough to see several courtships.
This is a series of Aviary shots I made over several visits and show how large it is. The long space is broken up into 3 climate zones, although you can’t see much at the far end which is very thick rainforest. Some images may look similar, but they have actually been made from opposite ends of the boardwalk.
Some days you get lucky and other days the birds are high up near the roof basking in the winter sunshine leaving only a silhouette to shoot, OR hiding in the shadows of the long boardwalk in the heat of Melbourne’s long humid summer.
Some birds, like the finches, are housed in smaller cages in another area of the zoo, although since it’s a couple of years since I’ve visited, they may have been re-housed in newer viewing areas constructed more recently.
One afternoon I went specifically to visit the Aviary and it was closed for renovation, so if you’re visiting Melbourne, always best to check their website or ring first if you want to visit a specific area.
Melbourne Zoo is open 365 days per year and one year, I even went on Christmas Day. Best not to go during Melbourne’s school holidays though – the crowd makes it difficult to get close to many of the animal viewing windows or cages. I’ve gone with young family members a couple of times, but to be honest I’d rather visit on my own so I can spend long periods practicing photography on the bird, animal or reptile exhibit I particularly like.
As to photography, well, Melbourne Zoo is where I learnt how to photograph through tiny wire, thick foliage and hold my first DSLR very, very still. It’s a great photography learning experience. You do need to change your DSLR focus points from the usual 9 to 1 to get through 1/4″ wire though.
You need to have the bird (or animal) a certain distance behind the wire and your own position a certain distance from the cage wire. Maybe I need to go back to the zoo for a ‘refresher’ course, as some of my bird shots are a bit wobbly these days. I can’t get shots between tiny cage wire with my Sony a6000 ‘mirrorless’ camera though, only my Canon DLSR.
No doubt many of the zoo’s exhibits and some of the landscaping have changed since I was there a couple of years ago.
We have several beautiful Doves and Pigeons in Australia, but I’ve only seen 6-7 in the wild.
Back in 2014, I photographed one that normally lives in the northern warmer states in woodland, forest and scrubby parkland with fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, and its a beauty. Initially I saw it in the humidity of the Butterfly House at Melbourne Zoo, but it was not until many zoo visits later that I saw it in its own large enclosure and found out its name.
The Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove is medium-sized and spectacularly coloured. The female is slightly less so, but they do have a loud distinctive cooing sound. I wish I could see one in the wild because although we have large, well landscaped enclosures at Melbourne Zoo, it’s not really the same thing. Actually, we have many wild birds, large and small, that are wild in the Zoo, no doubt attracted to the regular feeding times.
Waratahs are evergreen shrubs or trees that are densely foliated and the large red flowers are among Australia’s best known wildflowers.
The one in this post was photographed at Melbourne Zoo near the enormous lion enclosure.
This particular enclosure is/was? massive, (might have changed since I was there a couple of years ago), and has a high fenced boardwalk going over the top, so no matter where the lions are (outdoors), you get a great view of them.
I’ve even managed to photograph the animals through the tough chain wire fence. If you do enough photography practice getting one focal point through tiny wire netting and cages, I can assure you it’s relatively easy.